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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Sorry for how long this is... I don't know how to ask this without giving all the info.

It's going on 2 months since 5 year old chi/jack russell mix Cowboy came to live with me. I don't know his background; the rescue group said he was found on the street on New Year's Eve, and that nobody ever came looking for him. What isn't clear is whether he was an escapee frightened by fireworks or had been on the street already. I saw him on a website, and the group sent me photos and videos, because I live a few hours away from where he was. I went to meet him, and brought him home the same day, which was a month after he was found - February 1.

In the videos his foster mama sent me, Cowboy gets along fine with the other dogs in the house. She said he was virtually silent, with the exception of a loud, siren like howl he would let out occasionally in the middle of the night. I've come to know this sound as the separation anxiety wail. At her house, he was sleeping in sort of a playpen type thing in the kitchen, away from other dogs and people. She told me he seemed pretty content in the playpen, but did come out, not exactly to play, but to hang out.

Since I got Cowboy home, he has spent probably 95 percent of his waking life in his crate, by choice (he sleeps in bed with me at night). My situation is a little unusual, in that I live in a loft above my retail store, and Cowboy is with me all day while i work, in his crate behind the store counter. It's not an especially busy store, with foot traffic at a minimum (I sell a lot online). The crate door is open, but the only time he comes out on his own is when I leave the room for some reason; then he will come out looking for me, and if he doesn't see me he will wail. I can coax him out to say hi to someone, and he always seems very happy to meet people, wagging his tail and accepting petting with no signs of stress, but within a minute he's always headed back to the crate. He cannot seem to tolerate the presence of another dog, even all the way across the street. He will growl and bark, and if he meets a dog face to face he will lunge.

So here's where it gets confusing. I brought him to a party. I brought along a pop up crate with his same bed and blanket inside it. I've set it up before and he seems content to use it just like his metal crate. I figured he would want to retreat at some point. At the party, there were adults, children, and dogs. But guess what? Cowboy was the life of the party! He sniffed butts with the dogs, wagged his tail and socialized with the adults, and played with the kids. He seemed relaxed, like he was having a great time. No problems with anyone! No desire to hide in a crate!

Cowboy recently had some minor surgery and at the same time had several badly infected teeth pulled. Two days after surgery, he seemed to be getting more adventurous, leaving the crate on his own, and I chalked that up to the tooth pain being gone. But now.... a little less than a week later, he is once again cemented to the crate. Even more so. Even with coaxing, he doesn't really ever want to come out. Once he's out on a walk or in the car, he will be fine, seeming to enjoy both events. But getting him there... he doesn't help at all. i have to pick him up and lift him out of the crate. He truly doesn't seem disturbed at any point in this journey. he seems fine But it's driving ME crazy.

The store is a small one but has large doors that lead to the outside. Being behind my counter definitely creates a protected area, though. I have to emphasize that he does not seem fearful, and is VERY big into non-threatening, soft-eyed, lovey dovey eye contact. He just seems extraordinarily attached to the crate. I don't mind it really, it's actually helpful because i don't have to worry about where he is, but I'm worried it's a signal he is unhappy with his present life. Can anyone tell me anything about this?
 

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I would move his bed outside the crate/pen and see how he goes. You could put the crate in a room different to the one you're going to be in most of the time. Maybe be even put the crate away and see what he thinks. Dogs, like us, are creatures of habit.

I wouldn't do much coaxing out of the crate either. What would he do then? Probably come out.

You could try plugging in Pet Remedy or Adaptil, both of which are supposed to make dogs feel relaxed. And stop feeling crazy! He'll pick up on that.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thanks for the reply. I guess my main concern is not changing the behavior so much as trying to understand it. I'm OK with the crate, just not sure whether it indicates he's really unhappy and stressed, or whether I'm reading too much into it. It's actually very convenient for me that he's in there so much; my last dog, who recently passed, was not a crate guy. Customers loved the way he walked around the store with them like he owned the place, but it was not always easy keeping track of where he was at any given moment. I don't think I'm sending too many crazy signals but thanks for the reminder.
 

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Without seeing the behaviour it's impossible to tell how he's feeling.

Feeling safe in the crate does not necessarily mean Cowboy is feeling happy. The fact that he was the life and soul of the party at somebody else's house but confines himself to a crate in yours suggests that he thrives on the hustle and bustle of a busy household which seems to be missing from your house.

But as it's only been 2 months since he came to you, it may just be that he hasn't fully adjusted to his new lifestyle. So I'd give him time, and I would give him a nice tidbit every time he chooses to come out of his crate - at home or your store.

Good luck and keep us posted please.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thank you, I was kind of feeling the same thing, that maybe he is lonely for all that movement. It does get bustly in here at times, and there's no difference in his behavior then, but it's such a different atmosphere. The foster mama's house has several dogs and a child. She said he preferred his "playpen" (didn't have a crate) over there, too, but not to the same extent. Then again, it was in a separate room there and here it's in the area I mainly occupy. I will try moving the crate but keeping his bed near me and see what he chooses to do, just to try to figure out what's going on in that little head.
 

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I'm going to guess, really we are all guessing, that Cowboy is still confused by environmental changes, and is still working on figuring out what happened to him, and how he fits in. In reality two months is not very long, and you are seeing changes in him, so again guessing, you got a bit of a preview of his personality at the party, that he was the life of. My guess is, slowly over time you will continue to see more and more changes in his behavior, as he adjusts to his environment, and becomes more secure.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thank you for your response! I can't even imagine what it feels like to live somewhere for probably 5 years, then in one night be swept away on a journey that includes shelters, rescue groups, foster homes, and finally a live-in store. All inside of a month. Throw some surgery and losing a whole bunch of teeth into the mix, and it's all got to be bewildering. I plan on taking him to classes as soon as the dreaded inflatable collar is off his neck, which should help with a lot of things.
 
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